Sidmouth Eats Boutique comes to an end after 6 years

Saying goodbye, coming to an end. We seem to encounter the ends of things regularly –  the end of a book, the end of the day, the end of a holiday. Small endings that often have a little regret or sorrow attached to them. 

Recently we had a holiday visiting my mother’s country, Australia. It was a long awaited trip, a joyous reconnection with old friends and ageing family, and a long held desire to travel this land in a camper van. Our 6 weeks was full to the brim and it was brilliant. It was inevitable that it would come to an end, and we were all ready for that. I’ve not often felt ready for a holiday to end – we’re all plagued by the nostalgia of a more dreamy time, that escape from reality and I think I’ve found the golden nugget that 6 weeks is just about the right time for the dreamy holiday reverie to last. Week 7 would have seen bickering turn to arguments, budget turn to poverty, the compact wardrobe turn to rags and all that family become more than annoying. The end of our holiday was sweet and we came home with beautiful memories and relationships intact, ready to face the bracing slap in the face of a British January.

Thats my lesson on endings. All endings are a choice, they are the wrapping paper around an experience. I’ve made the decision to end Sidmouth Eats Boutique pop up street food market and its a really positive move for my business. 

We started out in Sidmouth in 2018, on the Ham on a blue sky day in June. I remember there was a big night going on at a local pub too so lots pf people came to see us before their night out at the pub. It was a big change from our Seaton operation – a much bigger space, more traders and expectations to pay on card. Yes, mobile card payments was still very new technology! The seagulls stayed high in that blue sky. They could smell food but couldn’t quite work out what was going on. The next event, in July, and the event after that in August had to be cancelled due to torrential rain storms. I couldn’t believe our bad luck! Up till now there are the only 2 we’ve ever had to cancel because of inclement weather. We returned to the Ham in 2019 with better luck and a shiny new card machine. Then of course there was the year that never was. In 2021 Kennaway House became our new venue, smaller and more affordable for the scale of our operation. Three summers of street food markets, an appearance on Radio Devon, joining the calendar of the Taste Eats Devon Festival, yet another cancelled event the day after Queen Elizabeth passed, and then our first Sidmouth Christmas event at the lights switch on. To cap it all we celebrated our 50th Eats Boutique event in Sidmouth, a milestone of which I’m immensely proud. 

The pandemic was an enormous boost to street food trading. Suddenly the world understood the value of eating outside. Some traders gave up the business but many more started up, seeing the benefits of flexibility in being mobile, and the fun we have serving up great food and drink direct to our customers. Community events recognised that selling a few food and beverage pitches could contribute income to the overall project. Consumers love any chance to grab something tasty to eat or drink. The hospitality industry has bloomed in the last 20 years and although it still faces enormous challenges, as a society we have become accustomed to regularly dining out and finding a coffee wherever we go. Our intimate Friday night events during the summer have enabled new street food traders to find their feet in the business. Many have moved on, shut up shop or expanded their micro empires and very many have stayed with us, becoming firm favourites of yours and friends of mine. 

Street food is one strand of the hospitality industry, and in our rural communities it meets a need. We are able to explore global cuisine with international flavours brought to our table. We can take a culinary journey around the world without having to leave our communities.

So why end it? Well, a pop up by its nature is a temporary thing. It pops up and fills a gap. It never meant to be a permanent fixture. Pop ups are transitory, filling a need that isn’t met by the current offer. Pop ups celebrate entrepreneurship and micro endeavours, they’re on a human scale. A pop up event activates spaces that can often be overlooked or ignored. They activate imagination both in the creators and in the customers, showing potential and hidden beauty. Created on a shoestring, fuelled by the passion and character of those who host them, a pop up is the antithesis of big business, as is a local market. It’s all of these ingredients that give our events their edginess and vibrancy.

Endings aren’t failures. If the community becomes saturated with the same offer it is success. When a degree of complacency sets in it no longer has the passion that drives the vibe. Its a from of gentrification – rents increase and other businesses seize on bigger opportunities. The initial need has been met, imaginations fuelled and its time for the pop up to move on and let others move in. In Sidmouth there are brilliant events in the diary, some longstanding and some new. Street food is in demand both as a revenue stream to keep community events alive, and as a known dining choice. When I first started street food markets I needed to explain to people what street food was – now everyone gets it and you know what you love, and why you love it.

Endings are transitions. My little business started up as an experiment in street food events and has grown to an extent I could never have imagined 10 years ago. I’m excited for new opportunities on the horizon, that I can mould to fit with my life in this very beautiful corner of the world. We’re never standing still, always moving forward (although it may not feel like that much of the time). A wise friend said to me that its important to make time to say goodbye and make the ending well. Doing so is a vital part of moving on to the next chapter. 

If you’re sad to see Eats Boutique leave Sidmouth, then some conforming news! We’ll still be running our community dining pop up events in other towns and gorgeous locations so not all is ended. Do stay in touch, do join us on a Friday evening during the summer to eat fantastic food and savour the community spirit of our Eats Boutique pop up street food markets. We’ll let you know when and where right here. 

Sayonara Sidmouth, adios, adieu, au revoir and farewell.